In an offseason that wasn’t supposed to be full of goalie drama and controversy, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going through another summer of heated discussions regarding their back stoppers. Although, it seems the only people having those talks are fans and media as next to no moves have been made by the front office regarding a new goalie. It may not be what fans or media have wanted, but the Penguins goaltending depth chart for the upcoming season is mostly unchanged from the previous season.
Everyone just has to accept the fact that Tristan Jarry is going to be the Penguins’ starter when the new season gets underway. Barring extreme circumstances, it’s his net. If a move for a goalie were to happen, it would have been made by now.
Jarry being the starter isn’t a totally bad thing. He has the ability to perform well in the NHL, and we’ve all seen it before. He was an all-star during the 2019-20 season and the fourth winningest goalie the following year. Fans shouldn’t lose hope in him or the team.
In the 2020-21 season, Jarry put up a record of 25-9-3 with a .909 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.75 goals against average (GAA). Throw in a pair of shutouts, and on paper, you have a respectable season in net. Like mentioned before, his 25 wins stood fourth in the league, just one behind the NHL’s Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury.
While Jarry is a great goalie, there is no doubt that he struggles with consistency and decision-making. Those are issues that can be ironed out with a new season and a fresh perspective in the form of a new goalie coach. Enter Andy Chiodo, who was recently promoted to goalie coach by the Penguins, relieving Mike Buckley of his duties.
I’m not saying a new goalie coach is going to fix all of the problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. It was Jarry’s first year as the Penguins’ full-time starter, and there were some goring pains. But he’s perfectly set to have a bounce-back year and bring more success to the Penguins.
The second line of defense in goal for the Penguins will once again be Casey DeSmith. He will be entering his fourth year of NHL service in five years, making him arguably one of the most consistent backups in the Sidney Crosby era. Aside from the years that Pittsburgh trotted out a tandem of Fleury and Matt Murray, DeSmith has been the team’s best backup since Brent Johnson.
Since joining the Penguins in 2017, DeSmith has been a solid backup option. The 2020-21 season was no different, as he played strongly when Jarry had a slow start, collecting an 11-7-0 record. In 20 games played, he finished the season with a .912 sv% and 2.52 GAA.
The 2021-22 season will be an important one for DeSmith. Now 30 years old without an extensive résumé in the league, he is entering the last year of his contract. He will have to have a productive season if he has plans to sign a new contract in the NHL after this year.
Last year, the Penguins utilized Maxime Lagace as a solidified third-string goalie. He performed perfectly in his one game of NHL action, recording a shutout against the Buffalo Sabres. This upcoming season, however, the Pens don’t have a clear-cut third goalie. Unless there is a move or signing, the next line of defense in goal will come from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
At the age of 22, Alex D’Orio has been in the Penguins’ system since 2017, bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. Most of his professional games have come with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.
In 42 career ECHL games, D’Orio has a 14-21-3 record and a .892 SV%. During the 2020-21 AHL season, he played 11 games, hitting a 6-3-1 record. The numbers aren’t phenomenal, but it’s a small sample size that has room to grow this season.
It is hard to track whether D’Orio is NHL ready in any sense of the word or if he is even third in line right now. There just aren’t many options for the Penguins at the moment. D’Orio is young and might not have a high ceiling, which is not an ideal situation.
The newest member of the Penguins’ lineup of puck stoppers, Filip Lindberg signed on the opening day of Free Agency 2021. Also at the age of 22, he is a young goalie who has a ton of upside. Yet to acclimate to the Penguins’ system, he was originally a Minnesota Wild draft choice with the final pick in the 2019 Draft.
Through three seasons with the UMass (Amherst) Minutemen, Lindberg played in 50 games and reached a record of 29-10-6, twice helping lead his team to the NCAA Frozen Four and winning the tournament in 2021. Ironically, the tournament took place in PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. On top of having a successful college career, the Espoo, Finland native also collected a gold medal in the 2019 World Junior Championship.
Lindberg is a goalie who has already built a winning pedigree. It may take some time for him to grow into the same kind of winner in the Penguins’ system, but he is the closest goalie prospect to the NHL. He will most likely start the 2021-22 campaign with the WBS Penguins in the AHL.
As of now, these are the only goalies with WBS that have an NHL eligible contract, as Emil Larmi, one of the Penguins’ top goalie prospects from last season, decided to go back to Finland and play with the Lahden Pelicans.
It’s a pretty thin depth chart for the Penguins for 2021-22, but if nothing else, the future looks bright in net. The first two selections by the Penguins in the 2020 NHL Draft have been growing and improving their game nicely in Europe.
Both Joel Blomqvist and Calle Glang have looked good overseas and could be reaching North American ice as top prospects in the near future. Blomqvist and Clang are both 19 years old and preparing for a 2021-22 season in their respective home countries; Blomqvist with Oulun Karpat of the Finish Liiga and Clang with Rogle BK of Sweden’s SHL. Both prospects had the opportunity to represent their countries in the 2021 World Junior Championships, as well. Clang’s Sweden failed to medal, and Blomqvist’s Finland won bronze.
While Blomqvist and Clang aren’t immediate fixes or options for the Penguins, one day they will be, and they should have an impact in the NHL.
The Pens have lost some names over the last year, but that doesn’t mean this group of goalies can’t bring success. If everyone manages to stave off injuries, the NHL-level netminders should pile up wins. The minor leaguers will have their time to grow. And the prospects should give fans hope for the future in the position. There’s not a lot of meat on the bones, but it should be enough.
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.